Summertime

School is out for some and almost out for others, the cherry harvest is ready to begin, and summertime is upon us. For some this means hard work, for others vacation. For a great many it is a time of drifting away from God and the practice of religion – though some do not see those two things as closely related.

Let me first address the challenges of harvest work. In my years here I have observed that the cherry harvest really does make it practically impossible for some people to get to Sunday Mass, even with the extra Mass on Sunday evening. If that is the case, God certainly understands, but it still puts a person in a dangerous situation spiritually.

When a person is unable to attend Mass it becomes all the more important for that person to devote substantial time each day to prayer, even if they are tired and exhausted. In these circumstances the daily rosary can really be a spiritual lifeline to keep the person from being separated from God.

As personal note, I know what it is to be in a situation where it is physically impossible to attend Mass. During my four years in the United States Coast Guard (when I was just a recently baptized Catholic) I was mostly stationed on ships and spent about five months a year at sea without a Catholic chaplain on board. It was indeed physically impossible for me to attend Mass, but I prayed every day and tried to make some special recognition of Sunday.

The second special challenge for those whose life gets taken up by the cherry harvest is to get back on track as quickly as possible after the harvest is over. During my years here it has seemed to me that some people who were regular at Mass during the year, who stopped attending during the harvest, are slow to get back to regular Mass attendance after harvest is over. It even has seemed to me that there are people who have fallen away from Mass attendance during the harvest and never really got back into it afterwards.

I can also note that people, who are attentive and observant as regards their own life, recognize that their conduct changes for the worse when they are away from Mass. That should not come as any surprise. Left to ourselves, human nature tends downhill; we need the grace of God in order to persevere in doing good and the Mass is the supreme source of God’s grace.

The cherry harvest is one thing, but vacation is another. Vacation time is a time to get away from the grind of work, not a time to get away from God. By the way, in case you hadn’t noticed you can’t do it, he is everywhere.

So when we plan our vacations, planning our attendance at Sunday Mass should be part of that planning. Where will I be on Sunday? Where is the nearest Catholic Church? What are the Mass times? Every Catholic who uses the Internet and who travels should be familiar with Masstimes.org .

A visitor to The Dalles will find correct information about the regular Mass schedule at St. Peter’s. A visitor to Ames, Iowa (to use a random example) will find that there are two Catholic Churches in the town and will also find the Mass schedule. One of those churches has a 7pm Sunday Mass, but watch out, it doesn’t have the 7pm Mass during the summertime! Maybe it is not a big vacation center.

There is another problem some people have keeping up religious practice while on vacation. They may be visiting family or friends who are less observant. Don’t be embarrassed; let them know that Sunday Mass is part of your life and you have no intention of missing it. The same goes when you are hosting visitors in your own home; this is what we do here, we go to Mass.

Once again, even if you are truly unable to make Sunday Mass – maybe you are backpacking in the wilderness – it is necessary, more so even, to maintain a routine of daily prayer.

Finally, the activity of summer, whether work or vacation, is a time to remember the words of St. Paul: Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God through him. (Col 3:17)

Summer is a time for enjoying the good things of God’s creation; we need to recognize the goodness of God to us in our summer activities; we need to give him thanks, but we must always give thanks specifically through the man Jesus Christ, the mediator between God and men (1 Tim 2:59).

The Mass, the Holy Eucharist is the unique way in which we give thanks in the name of the Lord Jesus, remembering that the same Jesus who is the first born of the dead and head of the body, the Church, is also from eternity the image of the invisible God in whom and through whom were created all things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. (cf. Col 1:15-18)

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Fr. Joseph Levine graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and after a long journey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles on the Columbia River.